Víctor Macedo fled threats and extortions in his native Venezuela and later in Spain. In search of safety and in fear of losing his life, he crossed the river that separates the border with Mexico with his wife and two children and arrived in the United States, but now he fears being deported to his country.
Macedo’s situation would have allowed him to access a US program known as TPS, which was created in the 1990s and grants temporary immigration status to citizens of some countries with problems that make it difficult or unsafe to deport them there. But it will not be possible for the Venezuelan.
For Venezuelans, the US government announced TPS in March 2021 and established that it would only benefit those who arrived before March 9 of that year. The problem for Macedo is that he and his family arrived in the United States in December 2021.
And although the Joe Biden government recently extended the TPS application until March 2024, it did not change the requirements to benefit from it.
Macedo and another 160,000 Venezuelans who arrived in the United States after the aforementioned date will not be able to take advantage of the program, whose benefits include the possibility of working and stopping deportations.
However, the number of Venezuelans who have since crossed the border irregularly has increased exponentially: in the nine months between October 2021 and June 2022, the border patrol had nearly 112,200 encounters with Venezuelans, more than twice as many. throughout fiscal year 2021.
The Venezuelan community and a bipartisan group of legislators have asked the United States authorities to redesign TPS to protect those who, like Macedo, arrived more recently and have not been able to regularize their situation.
In addition to them, there are Venezuelans with deportation orders who also do not have TPS and would be left helpless with the end, on July 20, of another program known as DED, which has stopped the deportations of all Venezuelans since January 2021, for 18 months. .
“We are quite disappointed. We had hoped that they would increase the term to be able to enter the TPS”, Macedo said. “Now we are at the eve of God. It is latent that they can deport us, it is a very great fear”.
Since the late President Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999, more than six million Venezuelans have left their country for political or security reasons, or expelled due to a deep economic crisis that the South American nation is going through.
More than 423,000 Venezuelans live in the United States, according to information from the 2019 Census Bureau. According to the government, some 343,000 could benefit from TPS. The vast majority —some 231,000— have already applied, but due to government delays, only about 30,000 had been approved as of December 2021, the most up-to-date information available to the government.
Macedo was a political militant and openly opposed to the socialist government. All her life she worked in her family’s bakery in Maracay, in the central region of Venezuela. Next to his business there was a local of the ruling party and militants often asked them to donate money. If they didn’t, they were threatened, said Macedo, whose wife was beaten for not cooperating, and she lost her pregnancy.
In 2016 they decided to leave. With a Spanish passport, they arrived in the United States and requested asylum, but the process was delayed, with no progress. Given the uncertainty, they went to Spain in the midst of the pandemic since they had the possibility of working legally there.
However, in Madrid, he assures, he was recognized by Venezuelans from the group that had threatened them in Venezuela and as the extortions and fear returned, they returned to the United States in December, said the 36-year-old man.
First they tried by plane, but they were returned to Spain due to lack of a visa. Then they tried again across the border. Macedo, his wife and his 11-year-old and 3-year-old sons walked across the Rio Grande, neck-deep in water and nearly swept away by the current, he said. They made it to Texas and turned themselves in to the border patrol, who released them after four days.
“All with the mindset that my family is safe here”, expressed the man, distressed as he recounted that his son carried the mother so that she would not drown in the river.
Macedo is once again in the asylum process, but since it has not yet been approved and he was left out of TPS, he fears that he will be detained and deported to his country at an appointment he has with the immigration authorities in August. “We feel helpless, with anxiety and sadness”, he said referring to the government’s decision to extend TPS without changing its requirements to be able to include them.
Some experts say those left out of TPS have reason to be concerned.
“Unfortunately it has a negative impact on the Venezuelan community for people who entered after March 8”, expressed immigration attorney José Guerrero. He explained that if these people do not have any other immigration resource, such as a legal relative who has claimed them, a request for adjustment of status or family reunification, or a valid asylum “are at risk of being deported”.
This is also the case of Ramón Bólivar, a Venezuelan who for fear of losing his life left everything in his country and crossed the border with Mexico in August 2021.
Bólivar, an activist who participated in opposition marches in Venezuela, says he was threatened with death by paramilitary groups close to the government of his country, who also threw bombs at his house.
He left his car buying and selling company and left his country for the first time in 2016 for Chile, where he lived and worked legally for five years. In 2021 she began receiving phone calls asking for money and threatening to kill her parents, who still live in Venezuela, she says, and finally decided to come to the United States.
In September he has an appointment with the immigration authorities in Orlando, the city in central Florida where he lives at a friend’s house, and like Macedo he fears arrest there. “I’m scared. We don’t know now what awaits us”, expressed the 37-year-old man.